USS MULLINNIX DD-944
I Like The Navy
Reflections of a Blackshoe
by VAdm Harold Koenig, USN (Ret)
I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my
Face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the
Globe the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive
Her through the sea. I like the sounds of the Navy - the piercing
trill of the boatswain's pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on
the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and
laughter of sailors at work.
I like the vessels of the Navy - nervous darting destroyers, plodding
Fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers. I like
the proud sonorous names of Navy capital ships: Midway, Lexington,
Saratoga, Coral Sea - memorials of great battles won. I like the lean
angular names of Navy 'tin-cans': Rupertus, Eversole, Shields, Everett F. Larson,
Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinnix, McCloy mementos of heroes who went before us.
I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers
as We pull away from the oilier after refueling at sea.
I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even
like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude
of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties?
to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there
is water to float her?
I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the
Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains
and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as
they trust and depend on me - for professional competence, for
comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are "shipmates."
I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed
"Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for
leaving port", and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home
again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends
The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting
from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy
laughter, the 'all for one and one for all' philosophy of the sea is
I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as
flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to
night. I like the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead lights, the
red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating
phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and join
with the mirror of stars overhead. And I like drifting off to sleep lulled
by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and
well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe.
I like quiet mid-watches with the aroma of strong coffee - the lifeblood of
the Navy - permeating everywhere. And I like hectic watches when the
exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor
edge of alertness.
I like the sudden electricity of "General quarters, general quarters,
all hands man your battle stations", followed by the hurried clamor
of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors
as the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful
work place to a weapon of war - ready for anything. And I like the
sight of space age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and
sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.
I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them.
I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry,
Farragut, John Paul Jones. A sailor can find much in the Navy:
comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's trade.
An adolescent can find adulthood.
I remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the
impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water
surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of
stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the
bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of
hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and messdecks.
Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when
the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the
Remembering this, they will stand taller and say, "I was a Sailor. I was
part of the Navy and the Navy will always be a part of me."
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© 2004 by Frank Wood, All rights reserved.